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Editions
August 09 Edition Cover

Housing All Australians – November 2020

04 Nov 2020

Government needs to invest in housing now

By Rob Pradolin

Welcome to the fourth of our 12-part series which will attempt to explore the role that housing can and should play within Australian society and why it is important to our economy that we house all Australians, rich or poor.

This series intends to draw on a range of perspectives centred around housing and homelessness. We will hear a range of views from business, the not-for-profit sector and hopefully government, as to why they believe housing is an important social and economic building block for Australia’s future prosperity.

This month we have asked Mark Feenane, executive officer, Victorian Public Tenants Association to share his thoughts around why the objective around housing all Australians should be considered an economic imperative for Australia ...

What is the economic cost compared to the financial or stimulus benefit of building more much-needed public housing?

Clearly there is a societal cost of not housing people as evidenced by the burgeoning number of homeless people in this country but is this less important than finding the money to house those most in need?

The KPMG evaluation of the post GFC housing stimulus was every $1 spent generated $1.30 return in the community. This is the financial win. If by housing more people, we can also save money on welfare referrals, prisons, or mental health costs etc. there is likely an additional financial benefit. However, its more than just the economic argument.

The real value proposition is that we need more public housing for what it delivers in human terms to the individuals it houses and for the community benefit generally.

Perhaps the most important infrastructure spend the government can engage in now and post the COVID-19 pandemic, is to invest in public housing and facilitate growth in social and affordable housing more generally. There is now a broad coalition calling for significant investment in social housing and this must be high on the list of government priorities as we navigate through these very difficult times.

It is imperative that any infrastructure expenditure adds true value to people’s lives – we need to get the best bang for the money being invested. So, it must be about investing to generate outcomes now and for generations to come. Government investment in housing is not just about economic stimulus but for all that housing provides, and what it leads to as a platform for life.

This is an opportunity to set people up for success. This challenge to government requires true leadership and vision. Making life better for Australians must be the aim; party politics should not be the barrier. Balancing the competing priorities of government may be challenging but that is what we elect politicians to do. It is time for them to step up.

Government must be a conduit to helping people achieve their potential. Unfortunately, many people are missing out on the basics and lack the opportunity and resources to change

their situation. Housing is the main driver to the better more fulfilling life that everyone aspires to and provides a solid foundation for life and opens pathways to the future.

We all share some common needs - food, clothing, and shelter, without which you cannot really operate, engage, or participate at a higher level.

In Australia, most of us have access to adequate food and clothing, although situations and choices can sometimes impact on this. There are numerous agencies established to help bridge the gap by providing emergency relief and essentials for people experiencing tough times and financial hardship in the short term. Meeting the very significant cost to obtain or provide a safe and secure long-term home is a far more challenging ask.

The capital cost of housing, particularly in a market which wants and sees property prices increasing year on year, is seemingly prohibitive to government/s from a budgetary perspective. That is despite the accompanying bonus of increases in sales tax and stamp duties and the ability of government to borrow at record low interest rates.

Ensuring its citizens are adequately housed should be a not-negotiable and expected priori- ty and measure of government.

Housing (shelter) is highly valued by Victorians based on a recent survey conducted by Essential Poll which showed that, regardless of whatever the demographic or political lean- ing, there was significant support across the board for increases in all forms of social and affordable housing. More than three-quarters of Victorians want the state government to “build significantly more public and community housing” as part of its response to COVID-19.

Everyone needs a place to call home - having safe, secure, and affordable housing is the prize of highest value and the greatest cost benefit by any analysis. Housing is the major enabler of a valuable life.

The housing value proposition when framed in terms of human values, sits alongside notions of what is important to having a satisfying and rewarding life including health and wellbeing, safety and security, community participation and belonging, education and skills attainment, jobs and job security, personal validation and sense of identity, self- fulfilment, achieving potential etc, all leading to positive valuable life well spent. The list goes on.

What is the cost in human terms of not having safe, secure, and affordable housing for everyone? We need to get the balance and in- vestment right. The prize awaits.

I hope you found the above perspective by Mark interesting and insightful. While what was said may not align with our own view of the world, we all need to listen and digest what is said by others in order to find common ground. This is why we are focusing on the fact that the provision of shelter is a fundamental human need (not human right) and without that need being met, we have unintended social and economic consequences that will span generations. As I said in my first article, doing nothing is NOT AN OPTION! We need to act and we need to act now. All of us need to be part of the solution so please feel free to write to me with your thoughts.

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